Wherever we have gone to serve, the parsonage floors were always waxed, the refrigerators full and the cupboards well stocked. I had been told by a former pastor’s wife not to expect people in New England to be really friendly, so I knew that would be different. God had blessed us with wonderfully supportive, honest, open and friendly church family wherever we served Him. They awaited our arrival with open arms and eager anticipation. We were impressed.
Ashaway was no different. When packing, we had labeled boxes carefully so it would be easy to find whatever we needed. Someone or several people in Ashaway had unpacked the boxes, and dishes and pots and pans had been washed and put away, ready for use. Silverware in drawers and kitchen linens. The same women had gotten sheets, covers and bed spreads, and all the beds were made up, ready for us if we arrived in the evening from our family vacation. I was overwhelmed with their sensitivity and desire to give us a special welcome surprise. Tired from our long vacation, I was not looking forward to all the boxes to be unpacked before we could eat or sleep. We had a real “welcome home” and not a box in sight. Ones still packed were in closets, so we began to feel at home immediately and news spread quickly that we had arrived. People began coming to the door to welcome us and bring food prepared for us. Everyone so happy to meet us.
I felt sorry for Pastors’ wives who complained about being a pastor’s wife, and I knew some who got their husbands to leave the ministry God had called them to. Many were helpmates in the ministry of God’s calling. For me, I felt sorry for women and children who had to move to a new home in a new area and feel isolated and alone while settling in. I felt the Pastor’s family was blessed. Always, our new home glittered, it was so clean, and we were surrounded by new “family” who loved and were eager to welcome us. There is no life as full of blessing as the pastor’s wife, I am sure. I recommend it to anyone committed to Christ, growing more Christ-like and serving Him faithfully. I have grown through adversity, illnesses and other life experiences to be more sensitive to others going through such traumas, so I was able to encourage, support and serve them in love. That might have been difficult if I had not experienced that, also. How good our God is.
I was impressed with the “huge” parsonage in Ashaway. I was also impressed with the friendly church members. There were five bedrooms upstairs – one of them had been remodeled to make a large bathroom. Again I could iron in the bathroom easily and I did. Downstairs, we had two living rooms, pastor’s study, dining room and kitchen, all roomy and well-furnished. We had a front winding stairway and a back stairway in the house. There was still an outdoor toilet attached to two storage sheds behind the house. We had a large yard, double garage with a second floor storage area and space for a large garden. Our property bordered the school grounds in the back, the Catholic church grounds on one side and a neighbor on the other.
Our driveway was also the Catholic priest’s driveway and just beyond our two homes, the Parsonage and the Rectory, it became two driveways going into our separate garages maybe six feet apart.
We had good relations with the priests. They did not seem to stay long. The priests came into our home to visit and we went into their home to visit. The housekeeper was known to even take clothes off my clotheslines and bring them in the house for me. If it looked like rain and I was not home, she would fold them and bring them into the house for me. She was a good friend and the young children loved to go over there because she gave them cookies. First, she brought cookies into our yard to give them. One day Esther or Ernie or both went over, knocked and pointed to the cookie jar they could see in the window on the porch. She thought that was so cute. I did not. I just thought how they could have been hit by a car not expecting children at the rectory. Edgar put up a fence with a gate behind the house.
When we arrived in Ashaway, the church was preparing to celebrate its 250th Anniversary since it was organized in 1708. We had several days of celebration. A long weekend. Quickly we learned about the long history of the congregation there . A member had written a play to tell the history of the founding of the church. Area church families joined us in celebrating. The church sanctuary and balcony were full. We were really impressed. I had never been north of New York City, so had no idea what to expect. I met a cousin of my father, Stella Bee, who was married to Pastor Harold Crandall. We became good friends. Many years later I was privileged to be Power of Attorney for their only child, Elizabeth Markolf.
The first school year our Ashaway School was overcrowded in some classes, so Annita and Ruth had to go on a bus from our school north to the Hope Valley Elementary School. The bus brought them back to the AshawaySchool again in the evening. Annita had Marcia Madsen who had graduated from Salem College with my sister, Beth, the spring before. Marcia had been in our home with Beth, so Annita was excited to have Marcia for her sixth grade teacher. Ruth had Mrs. “Clock.”
In Salemville, the school children learned some Pennsylvania Dutch phrases like, “red up your desk.” They had wondered if they should color their desk red? Watching other children there, they had discovered that “red up” meant to clean off your desk. In New England they had to learn to keep the “r” silent when it was inside a word, but if some words did not have an “r” at all, you might add an “r” to the end. We knew twins there who were “Esta and Emmer.” A dozen in Pennsylvania Dutch did not mean twelve: it could be any number more or less than twelve but near twelve. Here in New England “Aunt” was pronounced “Ahnt,” not “ant.” Ant was a little crawling bug. Soon our children were saying “Ahnt” with the rest of the children.
When Ruth got her first report card we discovered Mrs. “Clock” was really Mrs. Clarke. Robert’s fifth grade teacher in Ashaway was Mrs. “Potelo,” until her husband died suddenly at work with a heart attack. Edgar had his funeral. His name was Partelo. Edgar often had community people’s funerals and also weddings. Mr. Partelo had been a church member, we learned. After he died his two daughters and Mrs. Partelo began coming to church regularly and the girls were baptized and joined the church.
Ashaway church women were great. They had an active Ladies Aid and Parsonage Committee. Never did I ask for something they turned down as not needed or a bad idea. I asked after we were in Ashaway a year if we could move the dining room to the other side of the kitchen and make that room into a parlor. They agreed, so we moved things around. The parlor had the piano in it and it became known by the neighbor children as the “music room.” The children all took piano lessons and the second year we were in Ashaway Annita, clarinet, Robert, trumpet, and Ruth, saxophone, playing in the band. Richard, slide trombone, and Helen, flute, soon joined them. That room did become the “music room.”
Neal Mills was pastor in Rockville and II Hopkinton at Hopkinton City. He had SabbathSchool hymn books with books for a band or orchestra that were the same hymn books. As long as they were in Rockville we had holidays together, one year at our home, next at their home, but we always had a music fest in the afternoon with Martha at the piano and Neal directing. The children loved that and how proud Dad and I were of each one of our children. God truly blessed us with our family. They were always a “plus” in our ministry. God is indeed good.
We used the parlor for family devotions and music practice mostly. For general use we had a living room beside the dining room. I needed a living room that was off by itself and always ready for guests “in case” Edgar needed it for counseling. Edgar’s office was in the back of the house and people had to walk over toys to get to it most of the time. This worked better and it was just inside the front door, through the hallway, very convenient.
The Ladies Aid Parsonage Committee took on some project every year to keep up or remodel the parsonage without us asking. The kitchen was remodeled, hardwood floors were laid down throughout the living rooms, hallway and dining room. Edgar’s study was moved from the back of the house to beside the front door, across from the parlor. The glassed double doors that belonged in the archway between the dining room and living room were found stored in the upstairs of the barn, refinished and hung again so Edgar had privacy in his new study. The back room off the dining room was turned into a library and used for doing school work. Four children’s desks were in there and a toy cupboard below the wall bookshelves.
One day Edgar came in the back door and asked, “Have the children left for school? I need the bathroom.” He did not know I had company, Eleanor Crandall. She laughed and said, “We women have been talking about putting a half bath, anyway, downstairs. We had better get busy and do it.” They took out the back stairway and put a deep bathroom in, narrow but long enough. Over the bathroom was an extra deep closet upstairs. Bedrooms were repapered and painted. Some plastered walls replaced with wallboard and sealed, then painted or papered. It was almost embarrassing, all the remodeling, etc. they did while we were there. We were so happy with our large, spacious home already.
Like Salemville and DeRuyter, with children in school we soon were involved in PTA and got acquainted fast with other parents as we worked with them on committees and projects. The PTA in those days was welcomed and active in school education providing what the school board budget could not, but needed to be done for our teachers and students. Edgar worked closely with other Ashaway ministers and they met together monthly for Bible study, sharing and encouraging. We enjoyed being part of the community.
Vacation Bible School was a community activity. Always held at our church because we had larger space and more classrooms. We had teachers from all churches involved who had planned and worked together to prepare for this special event. God blessed this joint venture and mutual love and respect followed among our Brothers and Sisters in Christ. These were good days.
Our daily, except Sabbath, newspaper was owned and operated by Seventh Day Baptists, hence no Sabbath paper. On Sunday one instead. We had not been in Ashaway many years when the Circulation Department of “The Westerly Sun” called to ask if one of our children would like to deliver newspapers in Ashaway. Annita and Ruth went together to deliver papers all around the block we lived in. Before long, other routes opened up and all the older children had paper routes. At one time they delivered newspapers all over Ashaway. When Annita graduated from High School, or maybe before, Noëlle and Catherine took over her paper route. Our children were faithful, courteous paper deliverers and loved by customers. They were a big plus in our witness in the neighborhood and as a result church attendance and membership more than doubled. One year the family was honored as the newspaper deliverers of the year by the Westerly Sun and we received a reward of a new Savings Account at the local bank. I think it was for $10.00.
A Memorial Day parade was held every year by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Lots of decorated floats, the school band, police, fire trucks, politicians and any town child carrying fresh flowers to decorate graves with flags on them. Many years Edgar had the address at the cemetery. All of Ashaway attended this parade. A big celebration.
Our Ladies Aid had a “Turkey Dinner” annually and sold tickets for it, 250 or so tickets each year and sold some at the door. These were well organized and many hands made light work. I learned so much from our capable women who had things written down for future reference. They each knew what she (or he) was to do and there was no confusion. Men, women and youth all worked. Was a great time of fellowship preparing vegetables and setting up the dining room night after Sabbath. The meal was Sunday noon and a second setting and third. Menu was always roast turkey, mashed potatoes, turnips and squash, turkey gravy, mince, apple and pumpkin pies, cheese wedges, rolls, tea and coffee. People came long distances to attend yearly. That was our big money making project.
One year we had monthly Food Sales to raise money for new folding tables and chairs for the Fellowship Hall. We put a men’s and women’s bathroom in the Parish House another year, and, of course, the parsonage was kept nice and a lot of remodeling done. I took my turn being President – that was a good experience. I learned a lot. We drew names in December and had “Secret Pals” all year long, then at our Christmas Party and gift exchange revealed our names. We had a limit to what could be spent on our gifts. This was fun as we sent cards, flowers, food throughout the year to encourage and support our secret person. Really fun.
Through the year we had a Mother-Daughter Banquet, Father-Son Banquet, summer all church picnic, prepared Thanksgiving baskets for ill and shut-ins (usually 10-15). We were active in Church Women United always, and I took a turn as an officer — in Denver, I was treasurer. I represented our women in Ashaway on the Westerly Area Church Women United Board. We had a Day of Prayer celebration, May Fellowship Day and World Community Day with all area church women welcome. We took turns entertaining these well-attended celebrations. I represented our denominational Women’s Board one year at the big International United Women Convention in Los Angeles, California. A great privilege to meet and get to know so many sisters from all over the world. What a joy and inspiration! Another time I represented our denomination at the Baptist Women’s Fellowship of the Americas in Kansas City. The president was black and the fellowship and services reflected their culture: full of life and praise and worship. We whites were way in the minority and that was a good experience for me. Helped me learn what it feels like in the minority so I had a new empathy for like people in public gatherings. So much learned from ecumenical worship and fellowship. We can feel our oneness in Christ! We are truly of one spirit, so truly sisters and brothers. God is so good and greatly to be praised.
When we first went to Ashaway, health insurance was not part of Edgar’s salary, nor had it been elsewhere. Leon had a bicycle accident and was hospitalized in Westerly, then transferred to Lawrence Memorial in New London for a few days. Our medical and hospital bills were big. Some way neighbors on Leon’s paper route found out about it and began raising a fund to pay them. We paid very little ourselves. Some church members were embarrassed and began talking about adding health insurance to Edgar’s salary and also Denominational Retirement. We got Rhode Island Blue Cross and Blue Shield which really covered medical expense thereafter thankfully. We really needed that when I had so much heart problems and was in Deaconess Hospital Intensive Care Unit in Boston for several days before I had my first heart pacemaker in 1972. They only lasted two years at first, so needed a replacement in 1974 and 1976. All bills were paid by Blue Cross.
Annita began falling a lot in Junior High School. When barefooted she would trip herself – her toes were curling under her feet. The doctor sent us to the Post-Polio Clinic Robert went to. The doctor there put her in special Sable shoes that came up over the ankle and laced from the toe up. The doctor said that otherwise she would have “club feet” and not be able to wear a regular shoe as an adult. She had many “stretchings” which were done at the hospital under anesthesia. I asked if for church she could wear other shoes and he said, “No.” We obeyed. She had to wear high top shoes all through High School, but before graduation was able to wear a regular shoe. All those growing years had been hard because children made fun of her. The end result paid off and she has had no further problems with her feet that we know of – even as a Registered Nurse working long hours on her feet at the Hospital.
Robert had one more surgery after we went to Ashaway. They stapled his left knee to stop growth in that leg and help the right leg to catch up. I am sure it helped, but Robert had to have a lift on his right shoe to help balance his hips. Robert’s feet were different sizes and widths. We bought Sable shoes for him because they could be bought by the individual shoe and fit to the individual foot. They were what Annita wore those growing up years too. The Polio Foundation paid for both of the children’s post-polio check-ups and treatments. What a help that was. By the time our children started school they were experimenting with Salk polio vaccine. They each got the vaccine.
The Easter Seal campaign started as the Polio Foundation. It became Easter Seal and provided Post-polio care. What a blessing for us. In Pennsylvania Robert went to Easter Seal Camp so he could have daily water therapy his doctor said he needed. He was excited about going but very unhappy there. We could only visit once half way through the three week camp. That was so hard for him and for us. Never again did we “send him to camp.” The children went to church camps and also to New England Christian Endeavor Camps but Edgar was always on the staff. I sometimes cooked for camp too. Good years – wonderful memory builders.
Edgar had a large Christian Endeavor (CE) Youth Group and another large Junior Christian Endeavor group of children. One year he took a carload of youth to the International CE Convention in Philadelphia. Here they actually met Richard Nixon, when he was Vice President for President Eisenhower, and heard him speak. How excited they were. Another year they made a Christian Endeavor banner that stretched across the road and sent two members to Washington, D.C. to carry it in the Fourth of July parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. Our family all went along and from the sidelines cheered them on. We had a free Historical Scenic Tour of the Washington and area. So much history. Very special tour. Later, when Helen worked for the F.B.I. in Washington, D.C., she took us on other tours through museums as well as historical monuments, etc.
The Christian Endeavor Society planned, prepared and led our Sabbath worship, even bringing the Bible message on the planned theme, the first Sabbath of February each year. That was Christian Endeavor emphasis day. The church family looked forward to this. The youth grew in Christ year by year. God is indeed good.
One year Annita and Ruth traveled by bus to represent our youth at the International CE Convention in Houston, Texas. They stopped over Sabbath with the Metairie Church family in New Orleans, Louisiana en route to Houston. Annita was asked by our Board of Christian Education to represent our SDB Youth on the Curriculum Board at CE headquarters in Columbus, Ohio one year. They planned themes and other helps for weekly meetings three years ahead!
The entire church family gathered quarterly for a social and fellowship time. This might be a planned program with active games or table games, and always refreshments. Different families or organizations were host and hostess for the evening. These were always special.
Many pastors were beginning to fill up every day of the week with a church meeting, committee or Board meeting. Edgar always spoke against this in favor of having any special committee or Board meet on Wednesday evening. That was when choir practiced each week and later was Bible study and prayer time. This was the only evening he scheduled meetings. It was too important that families have family time at home most evenings – our own family included.
We had a very large Sabbath School. There was a class for every age or grade beginning with pre-school then kindergarten and First – Sixth grades. There was one Junior High and one Senior High class. Nearly everyone who came to church came to SabbathSchool. The “teachers” wanted a Bible Study class, too, so Edgar began a “Through the Bible Survey” course for them through Moody Bible Press. Weekly tests turned in were graded by a Moody Institute professor and certificates given at the close of the course. Edgar taught this course many times ordering text books from Moody Press. Other Bible classes followed year by year. We had committed, faithful teachers who were growing in the Lord as they taught the children week by week.
I took my turn being Sabbath School Superintendent (and also taught classes as a substitute, when needed). This was a good experience and a time of spiritual growth, myself as I prepared Opening Exercises weekly that set the tone for the class theme for the day. We used Unified Lessons, so each week all the classes taught the same “Bible truth” at a level each class could grasp the truth being taught. Besides the Unified Adult class, we usually had one or two other classes that adults could choose from each quarter. Some always wanted the Unified Lessons because our Denominational “Helping Hand” quarterly always followed it. This was the only SabbathSchool material for adults our S.D.B. Board of Christian Education provided. Our Sabbath School classes, wherever we lived, always were good for planting seeds of truth that took root many times in lives and produced a harvest of new fruit in the Kingdom church. Praise the Lord! It was His work, lived out in teachers’ teaching and children’s learning and applying truths in actions. God is ever present and seeking to draw us to Himself in love and service. Teachers are His instruments.
While we were in Ashaway Catherine Jeanne was born. She arrived in a hurry at the close of a busy weekend of company and meetings. The Missionary Society was located in Westerly and Edgar was active in it serving several years as President. Some years I was a member when the children were older. October 25 was quarterly Board Meeting so we entertained Pastor Leon and Mrs. Iris Maltby Friday night, Sabbath and Sunday until Board meeting in our home. Many times we were guests in their home in Plainfield, New Jersey. We volunteered to keep them. Dave and Betty Pearson were home on furlough from Malawi, Africa and taking courses in Boston so would be at the Board meeting. I asked them to stop en route to Boston and have supper with us. This they did.
The Board meeting was at 2:00 p.m. and people had left to attend it. Annita and Ruth were selling Christmas religious cards so planned to go out and hopefully get some orders. I went to the bathroom and realized today our baby was preparing to arrive. The girls had just left so I called to them down the street and they came back. I told them I would be going to the Hospital soon and asked if they wanted me to help them change guest bedding and do laundry before I left for a few days. They decided “yes,” so they hung laundry as I washed things. At the same time I was mixing bread hoping to get five new loaves made and baked before I left. This might carry Edgar and the children through until I was home again. Edgar and Pearsons arrived for supper. It was ready to sit down. I said nothing but excused myself after prayer to put bread in the pans, explaining “I was working against time.” I knew my time at home was running out fast and I dare not eat or drink just in case. Pearsons left right after supper to get home before too late. I was thankful. I told Edgar I needed to go to the hospital “right now.” I did call Elinor Crandall and asked if she could come to stay with the children while Edgar took me to the hospital. She did not live many blocks away but I knew it was time to leave and we did. Our doctor had his own hospital in their home. First story was offices and patient rooms, second floor was delivery room and operating room. Third story was his home. I had heard women had to walk up a flight of stairs to give birth and then walk back downstairs afterward. I got to my room and put on my hospital gown quickly. The nurse said she would go fix an enema for me. I said, “I hear I will need to walk upstairs to deliver.” She said, “Yes,” so I added, “I had better walk upstairs now.” “Okay, I can give you the enema up there as easily as here,” she said. I lost no time getting myself upstairs. As we passed a room she said, “That is the delivery room,” and kept on walking, to get my enema, probably. I turned around and went into the delivery room and got on the delivery table. I had met my doctor coming down the stairs as I climbed up and said to him, “You had better come back upstairs now.” He said, “I will put instruments to sterilize, in case I need them. I’ll get my coat and come right back up.” The nurse noticed I was no longer following her, so she came back looking for me. She was surprised to see me on the table. “It is easier to get on here between contractions,” I assured her. Thank goodness she came back. The next contraction began and with the contraction the water broke with a burst, and with the gush of water Catherine arrived – too quickly –no time for me or her to adjust. The nurse, surprised, caught Catherine as the doctor walked in the door. He worked with her and encouraged her to breathe. Neither of us remembered to wonder what sex our baby was. Once she was breathing, I asked, “Is it a boy or a girl?” The doctor had to check. We were both frightened because she had arrived so fast. Catherine Jeanne evened out our family: four boys, four girls, the perfect family (for then). Catherine is still a girl on the move. She has not slowed down yet.
When Catherine was two years old we had a call from the Hospital Chaplin at Hartford General Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut asking if we would be willing to take in, love, and raise a four year old girl who has been moved into four he is aware of in her short life, maybe more, homes. “She needs a loving home where she can be a part of a family the rest of her life. Right now she has serious emotional problems. Please consider this prayerfully with your family,” he ended. We did. The children were excited and wanted us to make her a part of our family. I was concerned whether I would be able to fill her needs with all my responsibilities already. We just could not say, “No.” She needed us and for some reason God put us on the Chaplin’s heart: Edgar’s cousin Audrey’s husband, Wendell Stephan, who knew us and our family well. We called him and said, “Yes.” He arranged to have Noëlle Fontaine brought to our home to live. We had not met her and, even more traumatic, she had not met us. This was trauma not only for Noëlle, but also for her mother’s brother, George Allen, who would have rather raised her as one of his own children, but he and his wife, Joyce, had four young children including a newborn Joyce was nursing. They did come as often as they could to visit and always spent New Year’s Day with us. Noëlle’s Grandma Allen came once a month and spent the weekend with us until Noëlle graduated from high school. We took Noëlle to visit her Mother in the hospital and later the Nursing Home twice a year, Christmas and June for Noëlle’s birthday, as long as we lived in Ashaway.
The State of Connecticut paid us something each month for the first 2-3 years we had Noëlle, and they carried health insurance on her until we got Legal Guardianship of her. Noëlle’s Mother fought our adopting, so we settled for Legal Guardianship and she did not object to that. When Noëlle was eighteen she had her name changed from Noëlle Fontaine Szarras Weld to Noëlle Fontaine Wheeler. In school she had always been “Wheeler,” so this just made it legal according to the law.
When Noëlle first came to our home the day after Christmas, when she was four years old, she hated everyone and everything – even herself. I knew she was afraid to “like” anyone so she would not be hurt if she was taken away again. You could just see inside her what she was thinking. She “hated” Helen the most openly those first few days because she had to sleep with her and did not want to do that. I put Catherine to bed after Noëlle and when Cathy Jeanne was settled in her room, I went back and took Noëlle up and rocked her a while before putting her back in bed. She never wanted me to hold her and rock her. Yet, when I put her to bed she just screamed because she did not want to be there, either. My heart bled for her. Finally, one evening I said to Noëlle, “If I put you back in bed, will you go to sleep without crying?” She insisted, “Yes.” And she did. No more crying at night. One victory.
Noëlle was not a good eater. She never wanted to eat at mealtime, but she had to sit on my lap while the family ate. My legs were black and blue where she kicked me that first week. Noëlle did like chocolate milk, spaghetti and apple sauce, so all the family had those foods often. Everyone ate some of each food I prepared. That was very hard for Noëlle at first.
One morning, maybe a week or so after Noëlle became a part of our family, she came into the kitchen as I was mixing yeast bread and stated, “Momma, I like you!” “You do, why?” I responded, and quickly she added, “Because you like me,” very matter of factly. My mind and heart reminded me of the words of John in John 4:17: “We love Him because He first loved us.” This took on new meaning for me. From that day on Noëlle began to feel at home and to be able to “love” again herself and others. God truly is ever-present and active in our lives today. We were over our first hurdle. All would be well.
Noëlle was a small girl for her age and Catherine soon was her size. By the time they were both in school, they were the same size and had many “twin” dresses and short sets. The housekeeper at the rectory wanted to monogram their initials or names on their clothes which she did. She was so good to all of our children and had the older ones help her with housecleaning and errands at times. By Junior High School Catherine was much taller than Noëlle. Willy was just nine months older than Noëlle so those three children grew up together and before we left Ashaway all had graduated from High School.
Again we experienced how God goes ahead of us, preparing the way. Noëlle had constant colds and ear infections that first year. She had a terrible cold when she came to us. The doctor felt like she needed to have her tonsils out before she began kindergarten. The doctor told us we would take Noëlle to the Hospital and leave her. The day of surgery we could not go to the hospital and the next a.m. we could take her home. I felt I needed to stay with her as she was a special case and needed reassurance. I got nowhere with the doctor. A day or so before Noëlle would go to the Hospital our family was traveling on I-95 and saw a lady with a flat tire on the lane opposite us. Edgar went to the next exit and went back to check on her. She was still there, hoping someone would stop. We were glad we came back. Edgar changed her tire for her. Turned out she was the Nursing Supervisor in Pediatrics and would be on duty the day Noëlle had surgery. She assured us that Noëlle would probably sleep all day the day of the surgery but promised to call us after surgery and if we needed to come to the Hospital to be with her she would call again. The nurse did call us twice. Noëlle slept all day and night, they said. She healed amazingly fast and that was the end of the constant colds and ear infections, as the doctor predicted.
Catherine was soon my shadow and helper whatever I was doing. How the years flew by and all the other children were in school. Next year Cathy Jeanne would begin. I was happy for her and she was excited, but I was sorry for me. I was going to miss her! My heart had begun skipping beats a lot, so I began doctoring for that soon after Catherine was born. When Cathy Jeanne was 7, Esther Hope was soon to make her appearance on November 21. When I had gotten pregnant with Esther, my heart suddenly beat perfectly again – no skips at all and a strong pulse. I felt like a new person. Hence Esther Hope’s name: because she had come to our home for such a time as this, bringing with her hope and great celebration. She had a home full of brothers and sisters to hold and adore her. She was the apple of everyone’s eye. Was like starting over for Edgar and I. We did not think it would be fair to Esther to have to grow up alone, and God must have agreed for a little over a year later Ernest Paul arrived. We were starting over and raising a family in the 60’s and 70’s and it was much more challenging and difficult than it was in the 40’s and 50’s. This really helped us to relate to the young parents of that day.
Ernie’s delivery was much more difficult than others and my heart began skipping beats again. That continued and got worse until in May, 1972, when at Deaconess Hospital in Boston I had a pacemaker installed. Instantly I was a new person and we all rejoiced. As I mentioned earlier, every two years the pacer had to be replaced with a new one. I had one in 1974 and again in 1976. The last one was good for 4 years! They were getting smaller and they lasted longer. Mine did 99% of the beating whenever checked. By now, 1976, all the children except the little ones had graduated from High School. Catherine had all her requirements completed so she graduated as a Junior. She got no recognition although her average was higher than the Senior valedictorian and again the valedictorian in her class the next year. It did go on her transcript though.
That summer Catherine was chosen by the local Lions Club to be the exchange student to Switzerland during the summer. What an honor and good experience for Catherine. We had a student from Denmark. That was a good experience for us, also. A friend came with her. The friend was housed not too far from us. The friend’s father died suddenly so she returned home early with her girl friend so she did not have to travel home alone. We heard from our student for several years.
Robert and Ruth had graduated from Salem College and Robert was married, Ruth also, and she was expecting her second child. Annita had graduated from Baptist Hospital School of Nursing in Boston and was married and working in WesterlyHospital. Leon was married and had our first grandchild. How things had changed in Ashaway.
Willy decided to stay home one year after graduation and continued working at Guild Guitar locally to save up for college. January and February he was “house sitting” while a family not far from his work were away. In January he began having a wart on his foot treated weekly to remove it. One day before he went for his treatment he was home and said, “Mom, feel this knot that has just come in my neck.” I did and suggested that he have the doctor look at it that day. The doctor said it should be biopsied as soon as possible. He was sure it was “nothing serious,” but we should get a biopsy. Annita was a nurse at the Hospital and Willy’s doctor reassured her it was NOT cancer, but he wanted to know exactly what it was. Maybe “cat scratch” disease.
About that time I awakened twice one night with a distinct voice saying, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified in it.” John 11:4. I wrote that verse out and kept it fastened in the kitchen on a cupboard and in the bathroom on a mirror. I was sure God had spoken to me to reassure me and to prepare me for something. I told Edgar I thought Willy may have cancer and told him about the “voice” I heard.
It was cancer, Hodgkin’s Disease. This did scare us for we had just had a church member die with Hodgkin’s disease after a long battle with it. We knew it was serious. Willy was sent to Rhode IslandHospital in Providence for immediate removal of his spleen hoping to catch the disease before it spread throughout his body. This was terrible surgery. Recovery was very slow and painful. He was in I.C.U. several days, then hooked up to I.V.’s, was using oxygen and had a pump going. We held on to the promise I had heard and told Willy about it as well as the other children.
Some days Edgar could not go to Providence, so I drove up alone after I got the children off to school. On one of those days, I found Willy very sick and weak. He could hardly talk. I delayed going home, but finally knew I must. After praying with him and leaving him in God’s care, asking God to prompt the nurses as necessary to fill his special needs through the night, I told him, “I will see you in the morning. I must go home now.” Very weakly he said, “Maybe.” That statement stayed in my mind and heart. The youth had recently sung a musical which included “There’s A Sweet, Sweet Spirit” and “Through It All.” I sung the words all the way home to keep my focus on God’s presence and power, not only with me, but with Willy and his doctor and his nurses.
Finally, William was home again to regain health and strength so he could begin radiation treatments daily. Late in April those treatments finally began. They were hard on Will, also. They continued into July. I remember more than once taking him to the Emergency Room at Westerly Hospital during the night. Nights seemed to be worst for him. In June, Robert was home and he insisted we go to bed and get some rest while he sat up with Willy. That night we had to go to the E.R. again.
Guild continued to have Willy come in when he felt good enough and to work as long as he could. They had promoted him to “tuning” the guitars and he really enjoyed that. He became really good playing the guitar then. What a blessing this was. He still was earning some money as he recovered.
Edgar and I were sure he would finish out his ministry in Ashaway. This was truly home to us. We felt as long as he continued to grow in the Lord he could feed his flock there. Then a call came from the Denver Church, and we both knew God wanted him to go there. We could not say, “No,” to God. After Conference in August we left. The church had a farewell reception for us and a program honoring us. There were well over 200 people in attendance. People we loved and would miss. We had permission for Willy to live in the Parsonage until he was strong enough to drive his car to Lincoln, Nebraska where he would start college in September.
A day or so before we left Ashaway, Richard and Michele came from Fort Collins, Colorado for one more visit. We left them in the parsonage with Willy when we left to move. En route back to Colorado, Rich’s left in time to meet Catherine’s plane when she returned from Switzerland and take her home with them.
Was difficult to leave Ruth, Walt and Rebecca in Westerly, also Ace and Annita as well as Leon, Linda, Jon and Coral in Massachusetts. By the time we got into Pennsylvania, the trauma of leaving our “home” surfaced and we all cried our way across that state, sometimes out loud and the rest in our hearts. We had Esther, Ernie, also Ellen Bowyer and Noëlle who we would leave at a Mennonite College north of Wichita, Kansas. That night we got to Edgar’s Aunt Marcella and Uncle Frank’s home at Bluffton, Ohio. My pacemaker was in its last guaranteed year so I had monthly checks on it. I had one the week before we moved. Not hearing otherwise from the doctor, we continued to follow our plan and left on schedule, Sunday a.m. The children, as usual, had a schedule of our travels day by day until we arrived in Denver. Monday my heart doctor called Ruth because he could not get us and told her I needed to have my pacer replaced immediately. Shall we go on and have it done as soon as we arrive in Denver, or shall I fly home, get the new pacer, and then fly to Denver as soon as I can travel? It seemed wiser to return to Ruth’s home in Westerly and get the new pacer there. I did that.
After Edgar and the children saw me safely on my plane to return to Rhode Island, they traveled on to Kansas and visited Grandma Wheeler one day then went on, leaving the girls at the college and getting them settled into their Dorm. Then on to the Denver parsonage, our new home. The moving truck arrived the same day. Cathy Jeanne soon arrived, too, and she, Esther and Ernie unpacked and put things away, organizing all the rooms. Catherine became hostess and housekeeper, and Edgar was so proud of her and also of Esther and Ernie, who cooperated with her and helped all they could. When I finally arrived the next week the house was in order, ready to live in. I praised the children. So, thankful, Catherine was home again and had enjoyed her summer and the families she lived with. God is so good.
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